In Productivity

Productivity is perhaps more important than ever before. The article below shares three key ways leaders can improve the productivity of their teams under any circumstances. CK

Article written by Andrew Thomas originally appeared in Inc.com on May 15, 2020.

The new state of global circumstances has turned our world, and our plans, upside down. No one was ready for the first quarter of 2020 to throw the globe into a recession and force people to alter the way they work. Yet one truth remains: Businesses and teams still need to be productive.

As companies are forced into remote work, you are being forced to find sustainable ways to maintain productivity despite coronavirus. As a leader in this remote environment, it’s more important than ever to design, communicate and adhere to the tools, processes and practices that support productivity, on a functional, mental and emotional level.

As you face a new era of challenges and opportunities, take time to consider these three key areas and how they can help you and your teams achieve the productivity you desire.

1. Find the right tools (software)

Software provides ample tools to support sustainable productivity, individually and with teams. When you consider a remote workforce, these tools become even more important.

Of course, Slack and Zoom are staples for remote work collaboration and video conferencing, respectively. When using these tools, find ways to keep the human element alive. We’ve started Zoom sessions with meditations (and received great feedback) and you can share gratitudes with co-workers over Slack.

On the productivity side, tools like monday.com, let users optimize workflow customization and automate simple tasks, which eliminates less important issues that take up time. Trello is another easy-to-use productivity tracker for solo or shared projects.

There’s likely a SAAS platform for your niche industry or specific needs, so do some research online. For example, 15Five is designed for team productivity and puts an extra focus on culture, which is harder to maintain during remote work. If you need programming collaboration, GitHub is a well-regarded platform for shared code. There are also SAAS apps for design teams that replace in-person collaboration with a shared cloud solution.

2. Review existing processes.

In addition to examining software tools to facilitate remote collaboration, communication and accountability, it’s also necessary to review your processes to examine if they are still relevant and effective. Afterall, a tool won’t help you if the outcomes won’t help you.

In our case, we needed to shift our communication cadence due to double-work and working based on assumptions during the start of the shelter-in-place directives. To remedy, we instituted a daily 30-minute zoom at the same time every morning for the executive team.

This is one example, yet the need is clear: review each of your processes and change whatever is necessary to meet today’s unique needs. Don’t forget to consider how your vendors or suppliers impact your processes and pay special attention to any inputs that might be hard to acquire during work stoppages.

3. Meet emotional needs.

My peers and social community continue to vocalize confusion over why they aren’t more productive despite having more time than ever and while working from home. They’ve gained the time usually committed to getting ready for work and commuting.

So why is it hard to be productive? The coronavirus has put a cloud of uncertainty and grief over all of us. You might feel like you’re being held back, or you might feel numbed or cognitively sluggish.

As a leader, consider the following ways to help address the emotional side of these circumstances so your team can reduce mental blockages and focus on their work:

  • Start meetings with 60-second personal check-ins. Ask each person to quickly share their state of being, without needing to go into too much detail. It’s as easy as saying, “I’m Andrew. Today I’m feeling unsettled, tired and anxious.” This helps everyone connect to each other and realize that they’re not alone in their feelings.
  • Lead from a place of truth and vulnerability. You don’t need to tell people it’s going to be okay or predict when the quarantine or virus will end. You need to be real, share from your heart and give people permission to be human.
  • Start your all-hands meetings with a 5 minute meditation. It helps ground everyone into the moment and can help calm everyone’s nervous system.
  • Focus on your mission. Remind folks that your mission still exists, and their work will impact customers in a positive way.
  • Make space for being human. This time requires that we are all more patient with kids at home, the surprising difficulty in keeping a daily schedule and rhythm, and the emotions that exist right now. If you can make room for that, your team can breathe and worry about fewer things.

You are living in a once-in-a-century moment in history. I mean, the price of a barrel of oil was actually negative this week. These moments require that we adjust everything in our lives, especially our processes and expectations. Consider each area on this list and see how they can help you implement new, or change existing, paths to productivity.

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